Manchester Orchestra – A Black Mile to the Surface

Their knack for the quiet and dramatic has always been present in Manchester Orchestra’s work. On some records it was rather underlying, while more explicit on others, so it’s not surprising that they chose to amplify it to the point of perfection on “A Black Mile to the Surface”. Carefully constructed melodies that complement front man Andy Hull’s extraordinary timbre, paired with complex, harmonic guitar parts and highly emotional lyrics carrying an almost unbearable weight – that’s what we already know, and what’s here to stay.

The addition of synth elements, however, benefits the creation of a somber, yet somehow content atmosphere, resulting in the birth of an abstract place you’ll never want to leave. You’ll find lyrics that speak in riddles, but you’ll almost certainly find fractures of yourself in a lot of them. You’ll find comfort, food for thought, as well as your new favorite song to cry to.

Unlike their former records, this album lacks a point that raises your feet off the ground, hitting your eardrums real hard, tearing out your heart. Where the previous ones grew loud, “A Black Mile to the Surface” fades from its comparably subtle buildups again and settles at a calmer tone. Less like a rollercoaster, more like a peaceful drive through the night. What some people might miss, I do not. This record is all that I didn’t know I needed.

Faultless Rating: ✔✔✔✔✔

Song recommendation(s): The Gold, The Moth, The Silence

Hundredth – Rare

Without a doubt – it takes courage to change your music style as vigorously as South Carolina-based Hundredth did with their latest release, “Rare“. Previously a band that would be associated with acts such as Being As An Ocean and Counterparts, their sound is now frequently compared to recent Balance and Composure and other rather shoegaze-y bands.

While it is a great thing to listen to on rainy, tired days -or really any day-, my problem with shoegaze is usually that, after catapulting you into that slow haze, it all just passes in a blur. You only started listening, like, two seconds ago, but the record has already come to its end and you don’t remember a thing. But this is the part where Hundredth prove that they are able to solve these potential problems. Their musical origins still shine through in the heavier guitars and drums, creating memorable riffs for almost all songs on “Rare”. The result is an album that, at first, seems to blend in with others of its kind: Defined by cohesiveness and not too many leaps out of the determined frame, you can easily lose yourself in this piece. Still, every song has something that makes it stand out, which stems partly from the hardcore influence, yet the newly incorporated elements play a significant part as well.  “Departure” with its high-pitched, dreamy guitars reminds you of Turnover’s “Peripheral Vision” and the chorus of “Disarray” will be stuck in your head for the next few days.

Speaking of which, there’s always a tense feeling when you don’t know what to expect from the clean vocals (which come with this change of direction). In this case, at least to me, it feels like the vocal and instrumental parts contribute an equal amount to the final product; something that is rarely found nowadays. The less prominent, heavily reverbed vocals allow the other instruments to display their versatility just as much as Chadwick Johnson gets to show that he can do melodic and quiet just as well as screaming his lungs out.

Both soothing and energetic, “Rare” is a very pleasant surprise in a music that is largely afraid of change.

Faultless Rating: ✔✔✔✔

Song recommendation(s): Hole, Youth, Disarray, Shy Vein

Against Me!, Touché Amoré, Tim Vantol. Eventwerk, Dresden, Germany. 16/06/17.